Authorities say a 15-year-old student opened fire at his Michigan high school Tuesday, killing three fellow students and injuring seven others and a teacher in an attack that sent staff rushing to barricade doors and students sending panicked messages to family and friends.
The attack at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, a tight-knit community in a suburb about 35 miles north of Detroit, unfolded around 1 p.m. when a boy, a sophomore at the school, started shooting a semiautomatic handgun, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
In total, 11 people were hit by gunfire. The three deceased students, a 16-year-old boy, 14-year-old girl and 17-year-old girl, have not been identified. Of the eight others who were shot, two were in surgery and six others were in stable condition, McCabe said.
Seven of the injured were students. The eighth was a teacher at the school.
Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said it received more than 100 calls about an active shooter around 12:51 p.m. local time. Within five minutes, the suspect was in custody. A deputy assigned to the school as a liaison helped get the suspect into custody. The suspect fired 15 to 20 shots during the incident, said Undersheriff Mike McCabe.
“He didn’t give us any resistance when he was taken into custody,” McCabe said. “The whole thing lasted five minutes.”
Oxford High School students described a chaotic scene in which a voice over the intercom said there was an active shooter.
At first, they said, they didn’t know whether it was a drill.
When they realized it wasn’t, they were struck by fear and panic. They said teachers locked and barricaded doors and covered windows, and some students hid. Those with cellphones quietly texted to alert their parents and friends.
Some students said they heard loud bangs.
Abbey Hodder, a 15-year-old sophomore, was in chemistry class when she thought she heard glass breaking.
“My teacher kind of ran out and was scrambling,” she said. “The next thing I knew I saw he was pushing tables. It’s part of school protocol to barricade, so we all knew, barricade, barricade down. And we all started pushing tables.”
They then lined up along a wall and grabbed something to throw, also part of the active shooter training they’ve done, Hodder said. But not long after, she added, her teacher told them to jump out a window and run.
Authorities did not say whether anyone was targeted and did not release any information about a motive. McCabe said authorities were investigating whether there were any warnings before the shooting or if the student had any history of violence. He said students and others would be questioned.
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The suspect, whose name was not released, invoked his right to remain silent and refused to speak in depth with authorities, McCabe said. He said the boy’s parents “didn’t want their son to talk to us, and they hired an attorney.”
Isabel Flores told WJBK, a Fox affiliate, that she and other students heard gunshots and saw a student bleeding from the face. They ran from the area through the rear of the school, said Flores, 15, a ninth grader.
Robin Redding, the parent of a 12th grader, said her son stayed home Tuesday. She said he had heard threats of a shooting at the school.
“This couldn’t be just random,” she said. “He just said that ‘Ma, I don’t feel comfortable. None of the kids that we go to school with are going today.’”
Redding expressed concern with school safety in general and did not provide specifics about what her son had heard.
“I’m shocked,” Tim Throne, Oxford Community Schools superintendent, said. “It’s devastating.”
Throne said that the school doesn’t have metal detectors and that he didn’t believe there had been discussions about them. McCabe said authorities knew how the student brought in the weapon but did not elaborate.
The school was placed on lockdown, and some students sheltered in locked classrooms. They were ushered to a parking lot of a nearby store after police secured the school and took the suspect into custody. Parents were told they could pick the students up at a nearby community center, the school district said.
Oxford Community Schools said all other schools in the area were on lockdown for safety purposes.
A host of emergency vehicles parked on the snow-covered lawn Tuesday afternoon. Livestreams from TV news showed medical helicopters landing at the school. At least one person was loaded into a helicopter around 2:30 p.m.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was one of several elected officials who expressed condolences to the victims.
“Gun violence is a public health crisis that claims lives every day. We have the tools to reduce gun violence in Michigan. This is a time for us to come together and help our children feel safe at school,” Whitmer said in a statement.
President Joe Biden was informed of the shooting after touring a technical college in Rosemount, Minnesota, to tout his infrastructure law.
“My heart goes out to the families during the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one,” Biden said. “You’ve got to know that that whole community has to be just in a state of shock right now.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, a national nonprofit organization that pushes for stricter gun control, said that over the past several months, it’s seen the largest number of gunfire incidents on school grounds and people shot since the organization started tracking such incidents in 2013.
The organization said September and October were tied for the most incidents recorded in a month – 32.
This year, there have been at least 651 mass shootings – defined as an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks such incidents.
Contributing: Joey Garrison, USA TODAY; Lily Altavena, Liz Shepard and Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press; The Associated Press